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Data Visualization: Tools

This guide provides an introduction to best practices, tools, and educational resources for data visualization.
Last Updated: Apr 25, 2022 3:57 PM

Legend

Selection of graphs from the Data Viz Project

The tools on this page have been labeled according to three factors, indicating whether they are open-source, online, and/or free to use.

Open Source  Open Source

Open-source software makes its source code freely available for reuse and redistribution. Image source: "open source" by Pablo Rozenberg from the Noun Project.

Online browser based  Online / Browser-based

Online tools do not require users to download / install any software but allow you to create data visualizations in a web browser. Image source: "online" by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun Project.

Free to use  Free to Use

Tools with this icon are free to use or offer a free version of a product with tiered pricing, although some free-to-use tools may require users to create an account. Image source: "Gift" by Ralf Schmitzer from the Noun Project.

Tools for Creating Data Visualizations

Plot.ly Chart Studio 

Plotly Chart Studio is a browser-based platform for creating custom interactive visualizations. The free version of the tool requires users to create an account or log in with another social media account. Chart Studio Tutorials are available on topics from fundamentals to creating particular types of charts, but be aware that some tutorials refer to older versions of the Chart Studio and may include out-of-date images or instructions.

RawGraphs 

RAW is an open-source visualization framework built on top of the D3 JavaScript library. It allows you to create custom visualizations using many different chart types, without any knowledge of JavaScript. The project is led and maintained by the DensityDesign Research Lab. View a gallery of RawGraphs or read more about creating charts and arranging your data for input into RAW on the RawGraphs learning page.

Datawrapper

Datawrapper, developed by Datawrapper GmbH, is a robust online tool for creating interactive charts and maps. The tool walks users through the process of uploading and transforming their data, customizing and annotating a visualization, and sharing it online. Datawrapper has a built-in colorblindness checker, and many help articles are provided in the Datawrapper Academy.

Nineteen 

Nineteen is a simple, browser-based tool that allows you to quickly visualize qualitative data. It was developed by Kim Erwin & Ted Pollari at the IIT Institute of Design. Read more about the tool here: "Nineteen: Qualitative Data Visualization." 

UPDATE: "As of mid-2021, Nineteen was taken offline temporarily due to hosting constraints – as a freely available, no-cost tool, it served the qualitative research community for almost a decade. We are indebted to the avid users and the Knight Foundation and hope to bring the tool back online in 2022."

Tableau Public 

Tableau Public is a free desktop app for data manipulation and visualization. It allows you to create custom interactive visualizations and combine multiple visualizations, text, and design elements into a "dashboard" or infographic, and Tableau will host up to 10GB of  visualizations and dashboards on your public profile. Many resources for Tableau Public, including how-to videos, are available online, along with a gallery of Tableau visualizations and a blog by the Tableau Public team.

Excel

Microsoft Excel is proprietary spreadsheet software with built-in data manipulation and visualization capabilities. Microsoft's Excel Help Center provides online tutorials and resources for creating charts, pivot tables, and formulas.


JavaScript Libraries for Data Visualization

  • Google Charts: chart gallery with ready-to-embed, customizable javascript visualizations
     
  • D3.js: most commonly used open-source javascript library for interactive data visualizations
     
  • Leaflet: leading open-source library for creating interactive maps; also available as an R package
     
  • plotly.js: high-level, open-source library for 3D and interactive data visualizations, built on top of d3.js
     
  • envision.js: lightweight, open-source library for interactive data visualizations
     
  • Paper.js: powerful, open-source library for creating HTML5 vector graphics
     
  • sigma.js: open-source library for creating interactive network graphs
     
  • dygraphs: open-source library for creating time-series visualizations

R Packages for Data Visualization

  • ggplot2: graphing package based on the Grammar of Graphics
     
  • ggiraph: ggplot2 extension allowing ggplot graphics to be animated
     
  • plotly: graphing library for high-quality, interactive visualizations
     
  • shiny: create interactive web apps using R
     
  • leaflet: create and control interactive Leaflet maps within R
     
  • googleVis: R interface for GoogleCharts javascript library
     
  • lattice: create trellis graphics (arrays of multiple plots for visualizing complex datasets)
     
  • dygraphs: R interface for dygraphs javascript library for creating time-series visualizations
     
  • RColorBrewer: integrate ColorBrewer palettes into R graphics

Python Packages for Data Visualization

  • Matplotlib: graphing library for high-quality, interactive visualizations based on the Grammar of Graphics
     
  • Seaborn: statistical graphing library built on top of Matplotlib
     
  • Bokeh: package for creating interactive visualizations
     
  • Pygal: plotting package for creating vector graphics
     
  • Pydot: python interface for Graphviz, an open-source network graphing platform
     
  • Geoplotlib: package for creating maps, in the grammar of graphics style of Matplotlib
     
  • plotly: graphing library for high-quality, interactive visualizations

Voyant  

Voyant is an open-source, browser-based environment for reading, analyzing, and visualizing texts (including plain text, HTML, XML, PDF, RTF, and MS Word documents). The project is led by Stéfan Sinclair (McGill University) and Geoffrey Rockwell (University of Alberta). The Voyant Tools Help documentation includes a guide for getting started as well as information on all of the tools available within the Voyant analysis environment.

Google Ngram Viewer 

The Google Books Ngram Viewer, created by a Google Research team in 2013, allows users to visualize the frequency of words and phrases that appear in a corpus of books. Several corpora are available, in several languages and variations of English, all of which were created in July 2009 or July 2012. Detailed instructions for running searches with the tool are available on the Ngram Viewer info page, along with the list of Google Books corpora that are available for searching.

KH Coder 

KH Coder is an open-source tool for quantitative text analysis, used in computational linguistics and related fields. It was originally developed for Japanese text analysis but can now be used to code and visualize text in many languages; read more about the tool in the KH Coder Reference Manual.

KNIME 

The KNIME Analytics Platform is an open-source desktop app primarily used to build data analysis workflows. Its text processing extensions allow users to apply natural language processing and text mining analyses, and allows for the output of several types of visualizations including tag clouds and term co-occurrance heatmaps.

Overview 

Overview is an open-source platform for analyzing and visualizing large text corpora. The platform includes built-in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities along with tools like named entity recognition, and users can export data in tabular / spreadsheet format.

Palladio 

Palladio is an online platform for analyzing temporal network data. Developed by Humanities + Design at Stanford University out of an NEH Implementation grant, it consists of a suite of tools to graph, map, and explore complex historical network data. Read more about Palladio or check out the Palladio tutorials and FAQ.

Cytoscape 

Cytoscape was developed through the Cytoscape Consortium with NIGMS funding. It is a desktop app designed for the analysis of molecular interaction networks, but it can be used to analyze and visualize network data of any kind, from bioinformatics to social networks. Cytoscape Apps (previously called Plugins) extend the base functionality of the software, allowing additional file type imports and exports or adding additional tools for analysis and visualization. Cytoscape tutorials and documentation are available on Github.

Gephi  Open-source icon by Pablo Rozenberg from the Noun Project Gift icon by Ralf Schmitzer from the Noun Project

Gephi is widely used network analysis software that allows users to create and customize network graphs. Gephi plugins are also available to extend the functionality of the software. A quick-start guide and Gephi tutorials are available online.

OpenStreetMap 

OpenStreetMap is an open-source online mapping platform created by the OpenStreetMap Foundation. The map data is entirely open and collaboratively added by a global community of volunteers. The OpenStreetMap Help pages include a beginner's guide to adding data to the map and how to use OpenStreetMap data.

Leaflet 

Leaflet is an open-source JavaScript library for creating interactive maps. The Leaflet tutorials walk beginners through creating Leaflet maps, and the "leaflet" R package enables the creation and manipulation of Leaflet maps in R.

ArcGIS Online 

ArcGIS Online is an ESRI product that requires users to create a free account or login through Google or Facebook. It is a flexible, lightweight, browser-based GIS platform that allows users to create maps by selecting a base layer and adding one or more data layers on top of it; a wide variety of free data layers are available, created by ESRI and by other ArcGIS users. ArcGIS lessons and tutorials are available online, and ArcGIS maps can be incorporated into ESRI Story Maps -- a free tool for creating interactive web apps with maps, text, and multimedia.

Mapbox Studio 

Mapbox is an online platform for creating custom maps and data visualizations. Users must create a free account to use Mapbox Studio. Maps can be created from customizable templates and by uploading data to be added as layers to an OpenStreetMap basemap. The Mapbox Studio manual covers the basics of creating and publishing new maps, datasets, and visualizations within the platform.

TimelineJS 

TimelineJS is an open-source tool created by Knight Lab at Northwestern University which allows you to create interactive timelines using Google sheets.

Tiki-Toki 

Tiki-Toki is an online tool for creating interactive and 3D timelines for publishing on the web. The platform requires users to create a free account in order to create timelines. The Tiki-Toki FAQ page covers basic information about the platform, and the Tower of London 3D Timeline, created by Alex Kearns, provides a good example of the platform's functionality.

Vizzlo 

Vizzlo is an online tool for creating data visualizations, including timeline charts. The free version of the tool requires users to create an account or log in with another social media account. Among other tutorials, the Vizzlo Team has created an article on "How to create a timeline," available on the Vizzlo help pages.

Canva 

Canva is an online design platform with thousands of free templates for creating flyers, infographics, and other designs. The free version of the tool requires users to create an account or log in with another social media account. Infographic templates include education, process, and timeline, and the Canva Design School offers tutorials and courses for learning to use the tool and create successful designs.

Piktochart 

Piktochart is an online design platform for creating infographics, presentations, reports, and other designs. The free version of the tool requires users to create an account or log in with another social media account. Piktochart Infographic templates allow you to add data and customize your visualizations within a variety of infographic templates. Piktochart video tutorials are available to help you get started.

Venngage  

Venngage is an online design platform for creating infographics, posters, brochures, and other designs. The free version of the tool requires users to create an account or log in with another social media account. Venngage Infographic templates offer a starting point for creating engaging visualizations and infographics. The Venngage help pages offer support for getting started and diving deeper on topics like customizing text and icons or importing data from Google Sheets.

Tableau Public 

Tableau Public is a free desktop app for data manipulation and visualization. It allows you to create custom interactive visualizations and combine multiple visualizations, text, and design elements into a "dashboard" or infographic, and Tableau will host up to 10GB of  visualizations and dashboards on your public profile. Many resources for Tableau Public, including how-to videos, are available online, along with a gallery of Tableau visualizations and a blog by the Tableau Public team.

Illustrator 

Adobe Illustrator is proprietary software for editing vector graphics, with powerful capabilities for creating data visualizations and infographics. Adobe Illustrator Learn & Support offers videos and tutorials for getting started, and the Illustrator User Guide can be consulted for specific questions related to the software's functionality.